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Freedwomen and the Freedmen's BureauRace, Gender, and Public Policy in the Age of Emancipation$
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Mary J. Farmer-Kaiser

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780823232116

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823232116.001.0001

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“that the freedwomen … may rise to the dignity and glory of true womanhood”

“that the freedwomen … may rise to the dignity and glory of true womanhood”

The Men, Purpose, and Gendered Freedom of the Freedmen's Bureau

(p.14) 1 “that the freedwomen … may rise to the dignity and glory of true womanhood”
Freedwomen and the Freedmen's Bureau

Mary Farmer-Kaiser

Fordham University Press

The realization of policy of the Freedmen's Bureau rested foremost on its officials at the local level. Using the gospel of free labor as the platform, bureau officials and agents across the South sought to convey to freedpeople not only the great rewards of free labor but also what they understood to be the rights, obligations, and values of freedom. Beyond applying the economic theory of free labor in a southern context, then, the bureau sought to initiate a social reconstruction that would transform southern slave society based on northern ideas of domesticity. Whether attempting to regulate federal relief, southern labor relations, apprenticeship laws and practices, or the administration of justice, the bureau endeavored to use the binary northern ideologies of free labor and domesticity to return former slaves to the workforce, to place freedmen at the head of black households, and to “teach” freedwomen to be the virtuous women, dutiful wives, and devoted mothers of true womanhood.

Keywords:   Freedmen's Bureau, free labor, freedpeople, freedom, slaves, social reconstruction, domesticity, womanhood, freedwomen

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